A CRITICAL EVALUATION OF J.J ROUSSEAU’s CONCEPT OF EDUCATION
1.1 Background to the study
All that we lack at birth and need when grown up is given, to us by education. This education comes to us from nature, from men or from things. The internal development of our faculties and the organs is the education of nature. The use we learn to make of this development is the education of men. (Cahn 155) These are the words of a man who has had a propound influence on the field of education. This man is none other than Jean Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau is one of those philosophers who has been greatly misunderstood. Many have criticized his philosophy as being totally outdated and not much applicable in today’s situation. But this seems paradoxical as Rousseau has also been that person who has had a great influence in the field of education. If not his method, then other methods fashioned on his philosophy have been introduced in different fields of education. So one would consider whether Rousseau has something to offer us or not. The reply to such a doubt is yes. If not his method, then the philosophy behind the method is of great importance. It is important to understand that Rousseau has been criticized more because people have not really understood why he expressed himself the way he did. Two main aspects come out very strongly in his philosophy. They are nature, and the child. Both these were of great importance in his philosophy of education. In order to grasp the reason for his philosophy one ought to understand his background and the context in which he wrote. Thus a brief life-sketch and his works, in the Introduction, should enable us to see what events and situations conditioned Rousseau to think andwrite the way he did. he simple Protestant city of Geneva. His father, a watchmaker, was descendent from a Parisian family, and inherited much of the Romanticism, mercurial temperament, and love of pleasures of his forbears.
The mother of Rousseau, too, although the daughter of a clergy man, was of a morbid and sentimental disposition. She died at the birth of Jean Rousseau. (Graves 77) Rousseau was brought up by an indulgent aunt, who never bothered to correct him when he faltered. She completely failed to instill in him any moral principles. This tendency for a want of self-control was furthered increased by his father, who had an equally careless attitude. When Rousseau was only six, his father would sit with him night after night and read to him the most silliest and sensational romances, which were left behind by his wife. It is for this reason that extreme emotionality, imaginativeness and precocity were nurtured within the child at a really early age. “After a year or so, the novels were exhausted and Rousseau had to turn for material, to the more sensible library of his grandfather, the preacher.” (Graves 78) Some of these works included the parallel lives of Plutarch and the standard histories of the day. These works had a lasting impression on his character. They contributed to his sense of heroism and what he afterwards termed ‘that republican spirit and love of liberty, that haughty and invincible turn of the mind, which rendered me impatient of restraint.’ His want of control may in this way have first come to turn itself toward the revolution and the destruction of existing society. (Graves 78)Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) was the precursor of the romantic movement in arts (and literature).
The eighteenth-century period in history commonly tagged: “The Age of Enlightenment” was characterized by a revolt against the established order. The period also marked a turning point in the history and identity of Europe, and, by extension, philosophy itself. It was an age that was critical of existing theories, methods, systems and practices; an age petrified with individualistic doctrine that man was free to express himself; an age in which the arts and sciences gained an extra-ordinary prominence; an age whose common trademark was the rejection of the authority (of priests and kings) and consequently anything which could be recommended by reason or common sense was accepted (John, 2009:221). Thus, The Age of Enlightenment was mainly rationalistic in its outlook. It was during this period that reason gained ascendancy over faith; a period in which certainty was only possible through reason. That is, reason was seen as the only answer to man’s difficulty and confusion. It was a time of individual (not political) liberty, reformation and revolution in sciences, arts and education. In describing this age, Curtis and Boultwood agree with Rogers (387-388) that the most obvious features of The Enlightenment were: “its practical and unimaginative character, its hatred of vague enthusiasm, and misty ideas; its determination to apply the test of a severely accurate reason to everything and reject out-rightly whatever will not stand the test of time; the constant reference in all this, as the court of final appeal to the one undoubted fact was the individual himself with his rights and his rational power of understanding” (263-264). Though Rousseau was certainly a member of The Age of Enlightenment, but he was not all this about this Age as alleged by Curtis and Boultwood. He can be reckoned as a reactionary to this movement. He became a reformer who was set to reform the “reforms”. It is pertinent to posit that most outstanding thinkers of this period discovered something about self in various ways and senses.
For instance, Descartes discovered the thinking-self in his Cogito, ergo sum; Locke discovered the experiencing-self in his empiricism; Schopenhauer discovered the diminishing-self in his pessimism; Luther discovered the believing-self in his “by faith only”. Rousseau, on his part, discovered the feeling-self, the unique kind of self that feels; the self that is passionate, the self that is natural and emotional; the self that is in need of freedom and equality with all men (John, 2009:222). Speaking like Pascal, Rousseau, in this new discovery on self, holds that the heart has its reasons which the head can never understand. Rousseau’s peculiar thought is an issue in philosophical circle. Though he attended no university, and he started doing various kinds of menial jobs at the age of twelve, yet the kind of intellectualization which he displayed and lived by eventually became a challenge to the hitherto academic and philosophic status-quo of his time, and the very thing that shook the foundations of France, Russia, Britain, Germany and America in particular and the whole world in general.
The entire philosophic build-up and the current of the Enlightenment pioneered by Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Voltaire, Schopenhauer, and other professional philosophers was once again forced to be re-examined in the light of Rousseau’s mental paradigm. Rousseau was a prolific writer, a powerful and original thinker, whose productivity generated the flames of the French Revolution of the 18thcentury and summarily compelled Tozer in the “Introduction” to his 1948 translation of The Social Contract to concur with Sir Henry Maime in the following words: “The world has not seen more than once or twice in all the course of history a literature which has exercised such prodigious influence over the minds of men, over every cast and shade of intellect, as Rousseau’s between 1749 and 1762” (12).
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Before one delves into Rousseau’s child-centered education, it is important to give a summary of his educational thought. This is to enable us have a background of his philosophy. Rousseau’s educational ideas came to limelight in 1761 with the publication of Emile, seminal work on education. The book marked the beginning of a new revolution in education. Rousseau even declares: “My thoughts are not like those of others” (1975:15). The book caused a universal outburst of indignation; the Catholic Church condemned it and ordered for its copies to be publicly burnt and the arrest of its author. In Emile, Rousseau presents a tripartite discussion on education, namely: the natural or negative phase, the social or moral phase and the civic or political phase. In this study, we shall not be concerned with the social and political dimensions. This is because Rousseau believes very strongly that the natural phase takes preeminence over and above the rest: the natural phase therefore becomes the anchor upon which the social and political angles rest. This stands to mean that the social and political phases are mere products of the natural phase of education. It is in view of this that the researcher intends to evaluate J.J ROUSSEAU’s concept of education.
1.3 OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
The main objective of the study is to evaluate J.J ROUSSEAU’s concept of education. To aid the completion of the study, the following sub-objective was put forward by the researcher’
i) To evaluate the J.J ROUSSEAU’s concept of education
ii) To ascertain the effect of J.J ROUSSEAU’s concept of education in the growth of the education sector
iii) To ascertain the impact of J.J ROUSSEAU’s concept of education on the child education
1.4 RESEARCH HYPOTHESES
To aid the completion of the study, the following research hypotheses were formulated by the researcher;
H0:J.J ROUSSEAU’s concept of education does not have any significant impact on the growth of the educational sector
H1:J.J ROUSSEAU’s concept of education does have a significant impact on the growth of the educational sector.
H02:J.J ROUSSEAU’s concept of education has a significant effect on the evolution of the education sector.
H2:J.J ROUSSEAU’s concept of education does not have any significant effect on the evolution of the education sector.
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
At the completion of the study, the findings will be of great importance to the educational sector, J.J ROUSSEAU’s concept of education will help in expanding the frontiers of the educational sector in Nigeria. The study will also be useful to the department of philosophy as the study will also add to the existing literature in the department.The study will also be of great importance to student who intend to embark on a study in similar topic as the findings of the study will serve as a pathfinder to them. Finally the study will be of great importance to students, teachers and the general public as the finding will add to the pool of existing literature
1.6 SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
The scope of this study covers critical evaluation of J.J ROUSSEAU’s concept of education, but in the cause of the study, the researcher encounters some constrain which limited the scope of the study;
a) AVAILABILITY OF RESEARCH MATERIAL: The research material available to the researcher is insufficient, thereby limiting the study.
b) TIME: The time frame allocated to the study does not enhance wider coverage as the researcher has to combine other academic activities and examinations with the study.
c) FINANCE: The finance available for the research work does not allow for wider coverage as resources are very limited as the researcher has other academic bills to cover
1.7 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Education Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits. Educational methods include storytelling, discussion, teaching, training, and directed research. Education frequently takes place under the guidance of educators, but learners may also educate themselves. Education can take place in formal or informal settings and any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts may be considered educational. The methodology of teaching is called pedagogy.Education is commonly divided formally into such stages as preschool or kindergarten, primary school, secondary school and then college, university, or apprenticeship.
Enlightenment European politics, philosophy, science and communications were radically reoriented during the course of the “long 18th century” (1685-1815) as part of a movement referred to by its participants as the Age of Reason, or simply the Enlightenment.
1.8 ORGANIZATION OF THE STUDY
This research work is organized in five chapters, for easy understanding, as follows. Chapter one is concern with the introduction, which consist of the (background of the study), statement of the problem, objectives of the study, research questions, research hypotheses, significance of the study, scope of the study etc. Chapter two being the review of the related literature presents the theoretical framework, conceptual framework and other areas concerning the subject matter. Chapter three is a research methodology covers deals on the research design and methods adopted in the study. Chapter four concentrate on the data collection and analysis and presentation of finding. Chapter five gives summary, conclusion, and recommendations made of the study.